On the moors above Bury is a large cube shaped monument, marking the site of the Pilgrims Cross. The four sides of the cube tell the story and history of the cross, its significance and destruction.

Here are what the four sides say:

“On this site stood the ancient Pilgrims Cross. It was standing in A.D. 1176 and probably much earlier. Pilgrims to Whalley Abbey prayed and rested here.”

“In A.D. 1176 and in A.D. 1225 the Pilgrims Cross is named in charters of gifts of land in Holcombe forest. In A.D. 1662 King Charles II gave this manor to General Monk, Duke of Abermarle through whom it has descended to the present lord of the manor.”

“Nothing is known of the removal of the ancient cross, but its massive socketed foundation remained here until August 1901”

“This memorial stone was placed here May 24th 1902 by the copyholders of the manor and others”

The socket was destroyed by unknown vandals in 1901. By 1902 as the  monument tells us, the present stone was put in place. Monuments on ridgeways like this would have been invaluable guide posts for medieval  travellers, both as a means of knowing how far you have travelled and as a way to orientate yourself in bad weather. Navigating by landmarks would be crucial in upland and moorland environments, so crosses and large prehistoric burial mounds would all have been named. The original monument was also known as Whowell’s Cross and Chatterton’s Cross.

There’s an anomaly in the above inscription, which names Whalley Abbey. This was not founded until 1296 which is after the cross was in position. However, near to Whalley is its rival Sawley Abbey, which was in existence from 1149.

The monument is on a footpath that is a public right of way. The grid reference is 772 183 and is marked as “stone” on the OS map (West Pennine Moors, Explorer Map 287). Close by is Ministry of Defence owned land (as can be seen in the above picture) so stick to the path and watch for red flags flying.

Pilgrim's Cross foundation stone

The above picture is taken from the book Notes on Holcombe, published in 1901 by a local antiquarian, the Reverend H. Dowsett. It shows what seems to be a fairly massive cross base. (Click on the picture to enlarge it.) Interestingly, another local cross base, that from Holden Cross near Haslingden, has a similiar appearance and served the same purpose as a wayside marker. It can still be visited today and to read the full details and see pictures of it on this website, click here

Another site on the same pilgrimage route to Whalley Abbey or Sawley Abbey would be the nearby Robin Hood’s Well, on the Helmshore side of Holcombe Moor. See our page on it here

Site visited by A. and R. Bowden 2013

Access and Parking: Park at the car park for Peel Tower. There are various routes up to the monument, but do take a map and wear appropriate clothing and boots. It’s quite a climb from the car park, over two miles until you reach the monument.

References

The Ancient Crosses and Holy Wells of Lancashire, Volume IV, Salford Hundred,                Henry Taylor (1906);revised version A. J. Noble (2005), North West Catholic History Society

Notes on Holcombe, (1901) by Rev H. Dowsett